Baby-Friendly USA has recognized CHI Franciscan’s St. Joseph Medical Center as a Designated Baby-Friendly birth facility — a prestigious and international classification that ensures a commitment to excellent postnatal care.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative — a global initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — reviews hospitals’ policies and education practices around breastfeeding. The process is rigorous and the standards are high: to date, only 543 hospitals in the United States have earned the distinction, nine of which are in Washington state. St. Joseph Medical Center is currently the only hospital in the south Puget Sound to hold the prestigious international distinction.

“As a designated Baby-Friendly hospital, St. Joseph is recognized for providing new mothers with thorough, consistent education and support before leaving the hospital,” Jakki Stodola, director of the Family Birth Center at St. Joseph Medical Center, said in a statement.

To earn the distinction, nurses and medical staff at St. Joseph completed 20 hours of required education; the hospital also changed its breastfeeding policy.

“A mother who gives birth here will receive significantly more education in order to make an informed decision about feeding her baby, whether she chooses to breastfeed or use formula,” Stodola said. “When a mother has questions about feeding her baby, our doctors, nurses, midwives, and staff will all give consistent, evidence-based answers.”

Education around the importance of breastfeeding is increasingly considered necessary because of the many positive benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfed babies have reduced risks of ear and respiratory infections, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes, and obesity. Mothers are positively impacted as well: for them, breastfeeding reduces the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast and ovarian cancers.

St. Joseph Medical Center said it is thrilled to have received the competitive distinction as a Baby-Friendly hospital, and is looking forward to providing peace of mind to expecting mothers in the South Sound who can depend on finding some of the best postnatal care in the country at the local hospital.

As the rest of CHI Franciscan’s locations begin to follow suit in updating their policies and practices around breastfeeding, this comfort will only continue to spread throughout the greater Puget Sound region.